Obama Pledges $2B in Stimulus Funds to Solar Firms

WASHINGTON , DC — Two solar companies -- one building a giant solar power plant in Arizona and the other constructing state-of-the-art factories to make thin-film panels --  have been offered conditional commitments for $1.85 billion in loan guarantees backed by Recovery Act funds, President Barack Obama said.

The president announced the offers to Abengoa Solar Inc. and Abound Solar Inc. on the eve of the Fourth of July during his weekly address. He described the measures as the latest efforts by his administration to strengthen a foundation for a clean energy economy and create jobs.

The projects earmarked for the loan guarantees, which will be issued by the Department of Energy, are expected to create an estimated 3,600 in construction jobs and 1,585 permanent positions, according to Recovery.gov, the federal government's website tracking stimulus grants.

The $1.45 billion loan guarantee for Abengoa Solar will help fund a $2 billion plan to build one of the world's largest solar generation plants near Gila Bend, Ariz. The concentrating solar power plant, called Solana, is to be the first large-scale solar facility in the U.S. capable of storing the energy it generates.Heart of Solana

Abengoa, which based in Spain and has U.S. headquarters in Lakewood, Colo., is scheduled to begin construction of Solana this fall with completion expected in mid-2013. The company's renderings of the project depict a vast facility with a sea of parabolic troughs, shown in the insets to the right.

"After years of watching companies build things and create jobs overseas, it's good news that we've attracted a company to our shores to build a plant and create jobs right here in America," Obama said in his address.

Abengoa estimates that:Solana Long View

  • Its plant will prevent emissions of more than 475,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, amount roughly equivalent to the carbon dioxide emitted by more than 90,000 cars each year.
  • Building the facility will create 1,600 construction jobs in Arizona, while the plant itself will require 85 permanent positions to operate.
  • At full capacity, the plant will generate 280 megawatts of power -- enough for more than 70,000 homes.
  • More than 70 percent of the components and products used in construction will be manufactured in the U.S. Components supplied by U.S. companies are projected to add $1.1 billion to the country's economy. Two assembly factories will be constructed at the project site and a mirror manufacturing plant is to be built outside of Phoenix, which could result in as many as 150 more jobs.

Abound PlantThe $400 million loan guarantee to Abound Solar will help the firm based in Loveland, Colo., expand its plant in Longmont, Colo., and establish a manufacturing facility in a former Chrysler supplier factory in Tipton, Ind. Projected to reach full capacity in 2013, the plants are expected to be the first to use lower-cost, high-volume, state-of-the-art manufacturing technology to produce thin-film solar panels on a commercial scale.

Abound estimates that:

  • Plant construction will create 2,000 jobs, and 1,500 permanent manufacturing and technical jobs will be needed to operate the facilities.
  • By 2013, the annual production of panels will be able to support the generation of 840 megawatts of new solar power each year -- enough to power more than 200,000 homes.
  • When fully operational, the plants will produce millions of solar panels each year.

With the offers to Abengoa and Abound, the 12th and 13th conditional commitments for loan guarantees, the DOE has backed a total of $14.8 billion in loans with stimulus money to support $22.4 billion in job-creating clean energy projects, according to Recovery.gov.

Top Image -- Parabolic trough technology photo CC licensed by Flickr user Tom Raftery. Inset renderings of Solana solar plant courtesy of Abengoa Solar. Factory photo courtesy of Abound Solar.